Neil Alden Armstrong (born August 5, 1930) is a former American astronaut, test pilot, university professor, and United States Naval Aviator. He is the first person to set foot on the Moon. His first spaceflight was aboard Gemini 8 in 1966, for which he was the command pilot. On this mission, he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft together with pilot David Scott. Armstrong's second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission on July 20, 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent 2½ hours exploring while Michael Collins remained in orbit in the Command Module. Armstrong is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was in the United States Navy and saw action in the Korean War. After the war, he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station, now known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, where he flew over 900 flights in a variety of aircraft. As a research pilot, Armstrong served as project pilot on the F-100 Super Sabre A and C aircraft, F-101 Voodoo, and the Lockheed F-104A Starfighter. He also flew the Bell X-1B, Bell X-5, North American X-15, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, B-47 Stratojet, KC-135 Stratotanker and Paresev. He graduated from Purdue University.
In 1947, Armstrong began studying aerospace engineering at Purdue University, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He was only the second person in his family to attend college. He was also accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but the only engineer he knew (who had attended MIT) dissuaded him from attending, telling Armstrong that it was not necessary to go all the way to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a good education. His college tuition was paid for under the Holloway Plan; successful applicants committed to four years of study, followed by three years of service in the United States Navy, then completion of the final two years of the degree. At Purdue, he received average marks in his subjects, with a GPA that rose and fell over the eight semesters. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from University of Southern California. He holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities.
His first assignment was to Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 7 at NAS San Diego (now known as NAS North Island). Two months later he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51), an all-jet squadron. He would make his first flight in a jet, a F9F-2B Panther on January 5, 1951. Six months later, he made his first jet carrier landing on the USS Essex. The same week he was promoted from midshipman to ensign. By the end of the month, the Essex had set sail with VF-51 aboard, bound for Korea, where they would act as ground-attack aircraft. He made over 600 flights in a variety of aircraft.
Armstrong first saw action in the Korean War on August 29, 1951, as an escort for a photo reconnaissance plane over Songjin. Five days later, he was shot down for the first and only time. The principal targets for his armed reconnaissance flight were freight yards and a bridge on a narrow valley road south of the village of Majon-ni, west of Wonsan. While making a low bombing run at about 350 mph (560 km/h) in his F9F Panther, Armstrong's plane was hit by anti-aircraft gunfire. The plane took a nose dive, and sliced through a cable strung about 500 ft (150 m) up across the valley by the North Koreans. This sheared off an estimated six feet (2 m) of its right wing.
Armstrong was able to fly the plane back to friendly territory, but could not land the plane safely due to the loss of the aileron, which left ejection as his only option. He planned to eject over water and await rescue by navy helicopters, so he flew to an airfield near Pohang. Instead of a water rescue, winds forced his ejection seat back over land. Armstrong was picked up by a jeep driven by a roommate from flight school. It is unknown what happened to the wreckage of No. 125122 F9F-2.
Over Korea, Armstrong flew 78 missions for a total of 121 hours in the air, most of which was in January 1952. He received the Air Medal for 20 combat missions, a Gold Star for the next 20, and the Korean Service Medal and Engagement Star. Armstrong left the navy on August 23, 1952, and became a Lieutenant, Junior Grade in the United States Naval Reserve. He resigned his commission in the Naval Reserve on October 20, 1960.
Armstrong returned to Purdue after he separated from the Navy, and his best grades at the university came in the four semesters following his return from Korea. He pledged the Phi Delta Theta fraternity after his return, where he wrote and co-directed their musical as part of the all-student revue. His final GPA was 4.8 out of 6.0. He was also a member of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity. Armstrong graduated with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955.
While at Purdue, he met Janet Elizabeth Shearon, who was majoring in home economics. According to the two there was no real courtship and neither can remember the exact circumstances of their engagement, except that it occurred while Armstrong was working at the NACA's Glenn Research Center. They were married on January 28, 1956 at the Congregational Church in Wilmette, Illinois. When he moved to Edwards Air Force Base, he lived in the bachelor quarters of the base, while Janet lived in the Westwood district of Los Angeles. After one semester, they moved into a house in Antelope Valley. Janet never finished her degree, a fact she regretted later in life.
The couple had three children together – Eric, Karen, and Mark. In June 1961, Karen was diagnosed with a malignant tumor of the middle part of her brain stem. X-ray treatment slowed its growth but her health deteriorated to the point where she could no longer walk or talk. Karen died of pneumonia, related to her weakened health, on January 28, 1962.
On his first day at Edwards, Armstrong flew his first assignments, piloting chase planes on drops of experimental aircraft from converted bombers. He also flew the converted bombers, and on one of these missions had his first flight incident at Edwards. Armstrong was in the right-hand seat of a B-29 Superfortress on March 22, 1956, which was to air-drop a Douglas Skyrocket D-558-2. As the right-hand seat pilot, Armstrong was in charge of the payload release, while the left-hand seat commander, Stan Butchart, flew the B-29.
As they ascended to 30,000 ft (9 km), the number four engine stopped and the propeller began windmilling in the airstream. Hitting the switch that would stop the propeller spinning, Butchart found the propeller slowed but then started spinning again, this time even faster than the other engines; if it spun too fast, it would fly apart. Their aircraft needed to hold an airspeed of 210 mph (338 km/h) to launch its Skyrocket payload, and the B-29 could not land with the Skyrocket still attached to its belly. Armstrong and Butchart nosed the aircraft down to pick up speed, then launched the Skyrocket. At the very instant of launch, the number four engine propeller disintegrated. Pieces of it careened through part of the number three engine and hit the number two engine. Butchart and Armstrong were forced to shut down the number three engine, due to damage, and the number one engine, due to the torque it created. They made a slow, circling descent from using only the number two engine, and landed safely.
Armstrong's first flight in a rocket plane was on August 15, 1957, in the Bell X-1B, to an altitude of 11.4 miles (18.3 km). He broke the nose landing gear when he landed, which had happened on about a dozen previous flights of the aircraft due to the aircraft's design. He first flew the North American X-15 on November 30, 1960, to a top altitude of 48,840 ft (14.9 km) and a top speed of Mach 1.75 (1,150 mph or 1,810 km/h).
In November 1960 Armstrong was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane. On March 15, 1962 he was named as one of six pilot-engineers who would fly the space plane when it got off the design board.
Armstrong was involved in several incidents that went down in Edwards folklore and/or were chronicled in the memoirs of colleagues. The first was an X-15 flight on April 20, 1962, when Armstrong was testing a self-adjusting control system. He flew to a height of 207,000 ft (63 km), (the highest he flew before Gemini 8), but he held the aircraft nose up too long during descent, and the X-15 literally bounced off the atmosphere back up to 140,000 ft (43 km). At that altitude, the atmosphere is so thin that aerodynamic surfaces have no effect. He flew past the landing field at Mach 3 (2,000 mph, or 3,200 km/h) and over 100,000 ft (30.5 km) altitude. He ended up 45 miles (72 km) south of Edwards (legend has that he flew as far as the Rose Bowl). After sufficient descent, he turned back toward the landing area, and barely managed to land without striking Joshua trees at the south end. It was the longest X-15 flight in both time and distance of the ground track.
A second incident happened when Armstrong flew for the first and only time with Chuck Yeager, four days after his X-15 adventure. Flying a T-33 Shooting Star, their job was to test out Smith Ranch Dry Lake for use as an emergency landing site for the X-15. In his autobiography, Yeager wrote that he knew the lake bed was unsuitable for landings after recent rains, but Armstrong insisted on flying out anyway. As they made a Touch-and-Go, the wheels became stuck and they had to wait for rescue. Armstrong tells a different version of events, where Yeager never tried to talk him out of it and they made a first successful landing on the east side of the lake. Then Yeager told him to try again, this time a bit slower. On the second landing they became stuck and according to Armstrong, Yeager was in fits of laughter.
Many of the test pilots at Edwards highly rated Armstrong's engineering ability. Milt Thompson said he was "the most technically capable of the early X-15 pilots." Bruce Peterson said Armstrong "had a mind that absorbed things like a sponge." Those who flew for the Air Force tended to have a different opinion, especially people like Chuck Yeager and Pete Knight who did not have engineering degrees. Knight said that pilot-engineers flew in a way that was "more mechanical than it is flying", and gave this as the reason why some pilot-engineers got into trouble; their flying skills did not come naturally.
On May 21, 1962, Armstrong was involved in what Edwards' folklore called the "Nellis Affair." He was sent in a F-104 to inspect Delamar Lake, again for emergency landings. He misjudged his altitude, and also did not realize that the landing gear hadn't fully extended. As he touched down, the landing gear began to retract. Armstrong applied full power to abort the landing, but the ventral fin and landing gear door struck the ground, which damaged the radio and released hydraulic fluid. Without radio communication, Armstrong flew to Nellis Air Force Base, past the control tower, and waggled his tail, the signal for a no-radio approach. The loss of hydraulic fluid caused the tail-hook to release, and upon landing he caught the arresting wire attached to an anchor chain, and careened along the runway dragging chain. Thirty minutes were needed to clear the runway and rig an arresting cable. Meanwhile, Armstrong telephoned Edwards and asked for someone to pick him up. Milt Thompson was sent in a F-104B, the only two-seater available, but a plane Thompson had never flown. With great difficulty, Thompson made it to Nellis, but a strong crosswind caused a hard landing and the left main tire suffered a blowout. The runway was again closed to clear it. Bill Dana was sent to Nellis in a T-33 Shooting Star, but he almost landed long. The Nellis base operations office decided that it would be best to find the three NASA pilots some transport back to Edwards, to avoid any further problems.
Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15. He reached a top altitude of 207,500 ft (63.2 km) in the X-15-3, and a top speed of Mach 5.74 (4,000 mph or 6,615 km/h) in the X-15-1, and he left the Dryden Flight Research Center with a total of 2,450 flying hours in more than 50 types of aircraft.
There was no defining moment in Armstrong's decision to become an astronaut. In the months after the announcement that applications were being sought for the second group of astronauts, he became more and more excited about the prospect of the Apollo program and the prospect of investigating a new aeronautical environment. Many years later, it was disclosed that Armstrong's astronaut application had arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962 deadline. Dick Day, with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards, worked at the Manned Spacecraft Center, saw the late arrival of the application, and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed. At Brooks City-Base at the end of June he underwent a medical exam that many of the applicants described as painful and at times seemingly pointless.
Deke Slayton called Armstrong on September 13, 1962 and asked if he was interested in joining the astronaut corps as part of what the press dubbed "the New Nine". Without hesitation, Armstrong said yes. The selections were kept secret until three days later, although newspaper reports had been circulating since the middle of summer that year that he would be selected as the "first civilian astronaut".
The crew assignments for Gemini 8 were announced on September 20, 1965, with Armstrong as Command Pilot with Pilot David Scott. Scott was the first member of the third group of astronauts to receive a prime crew assignment. The mission launched March 16, 1966. It was to be the most complex yet, with a rendezvous and docking with the unmanned Agena target vehicle, the second American (and third ever) extra-vehicular activity (EVA) (Armstrong himself dislikes the term "spacewalk") by Scott. In total the mission was planned to last 75 hours and 55 orbits. After the Agena lifted off at 10 a.m. EST, the Titan II carrying Armstrong and Scott ignited at 11:41:02 a.m. EST, putting them into an orbit from where they would chase the Agena.
The rendezvous and first ever docking between two spacecraft was successfully completed after 6.5 hours in orbit. Contact with the crew was intermittent due to the lack of tracking stations covering their entire orbits. Out of contact with the ground, the docked spacecraft began to roll, which Armstrong attempted to correct with the Orbital Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS) of the Gemini spacecraft. Following the earlier advice of Mission Control, they undocked, but found that the roll increased dramatically to the point where they were turning about once per second, which meant the problem was in their Gemini's attitude control. Armstrong decided the only course of action was to engage the Reentry Control System (RCS) and turn off the OAMS. Mission rules dictated that once this system was turned on, the spacecraft would have to reenter at the next possible opportunity. It was later thought that damaged wiring made one of the thrusters become stuck on.
Throughout the astronaut office, there were a few people, most notably Walter Cunningham, who publicly stated that Armstrong and Scott had ignored the malfunction procedures for such an incident, and that Armstrong could have salvaged the mission if he had turned on only one of the two RCS rings and saved the other for mission objectives. These criticisms were unfounded – no malfunction procedures were written and it was only possible to turn on both RCS rings, not one or the other. Gene Kranz wrote, "the crew reacted as they were trained, and they reacted wrong because we trained them wrong." The mission planners and controllers had failed to realize that when two spacecraft are docked together they must be considered to be one spacecraft.
Armstrong himself was depressed and annoyed that the mission had been cut short, which cancelled most mission objectives and robbed Scott of his EVA. Armstrong did not hear the criticism of other astronauts, but he did speculate after the flight that RCS activation might not have been necessary had the Gemini capsule stayed docked to the Agena – the Agena's attitude control system possibly could have been used to regain control.
Following the flight, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Armstrong and his wife to take part in a 24-day goodwill tour of South America. Also on the tour were Dick Gordon, George Low, their wives, and other government officials. They traveled to 11 countries and 14 major cities. Armstrong impressed everyone involved when he greeted dignitaries in their local language. In Brazil he talked about the exploits of the Brazilian-born Alberto Santos-Dumont, regarded in the country as having beaten the Wright brothers with the first flying machine.
On April 5, 1967, the same day the Apollo 1 investigation released its report on the fire, Armstrong assembled with 17 other astronauts for a meeting with Deke Slayton. The first thing Slayton said was, "The guys who are going to fly the first lunar missions are the guys in this room." According to Eugene Cernan, Armstrong showed no reaction to the statement. To Armstrong it came as no surprise — the room was full of veterans of Project Gemini, the only people who could fly the lunar missions. Slayton talked about the planned missions and named Armstrong to the backup crew for Apollo 9, which at that stage was planned to be a high-Earth orbit test of the Lunar Module-Command/Service Module combination. After design and manufacturing delays in the Lunar Module (LM), Apollo 9 and Apollo 8 swapped crews. Based on the normal crew rotation scheme, Armstrong would command Apollo 11.
To give the astronauts experience with the way the LM flew, Bell Aircraft built two Lunar Landing Research Vehicles, which were later converted to Lunar Landing Training Vehicles (LLTV). Nicknamed the 'Flying Bedsteads', they simulated the one-sixth g of the Moon by using a turbofan engine to cancel out most of the craft's weight. On May 6, 1968, about 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, Armstrong's controls started to degrade and the LLTV began banking. He ejected safely (later analysis would suggest if he had ejected 0.5 seconds later, his parachute would not have opened in time). His only injury was from biting his tongue. Even though he was nearly killed on one, Armstrong maintains that without the LLRV and LLTV, the lunar landings would not have been successful as they gave commanders valuable experience in the behavior of lunar landing craft.
After Armstrong served as backup commander for Apollo 8, Slayton offered him the post of commander of Apollo 11 on December 23, 1968, as 8 orbited the Moon. In a meeting that was not made public until the publication of Armstrong's biography in 2005, Slayton told him that although the planned crew was Armstrong as commander, lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins, he was offering the chance to replace Aldrin with Jim Lovell. After thinking it over for a day, Armstrong told Slayton he would stick with Aldrin, as he had no difficulty working with him and thought Lovell deserved his own command. Replacing Aldrin with Lovell would have made Lovell the Lunar Module Pilot, unofficially ranked as number three on the crew. Armstrong could not justify placing Lovell, the commander of Gemini 12, in the number 3 position of the crew.
Initially, Aldrin thought that he would be first to walk on the Moon, based on the experience of Gemini; during that program, the pilot conducted the EVAs while the command pilot, who had greater responsibilities and less time to train for an EVA, stayed on board. However, when that actual procedure was tried with suited-up astronauts in an Apollo LM mockup, the LM was damaged – in order for Aldrin (LM Pilot) to get out first, he had to climb over Armstrong (commander) to get to the door. A March 1969 meeting between Slayton, George Low, Bob Gilruth, and Chris Kraft determined that Armstrong would be the first person on the Moon, in some part because NASA management saw Armstrong as a person who did not have a large ego. A press conference held on April 14, 1969 gave the design of the LM cabin as the reason for Armstrong being first; the hatch opened inwards and to the right, making it difficult for the lunar module pilot, on the right-hand side, to egress first. Slayton added, "Secondly, just on a pure protocol basis, I figured the commander ought to be the first guy out. . . . I changed it as soon as I found they had the time line that showed that. Bob Gilruth approved my decision. At the time of their meeting, the four men did not know about the hatch issue. The first knowledge of the meeting outside the small group came when Kraft wrote his 2001 autobiography.
On July 16, 1969, Armstrong received a crescent moon carved out of Styrofoam from the pad leader, Guenter Wendt, who described it as a key to the Moon. In return, Armstrong gave Wendt a ticket for a "space taxi" "good between two planets".
The objective of Apollo 11 was to land safely rather than touch down with precision on a particular spot. Three minutes into the lunar descent burn he noted that craters were passing about two seconds too early, which meant the Eagle would likely land beyond the planned landing zone by several miles. As the Eagle's landing radar acquired the surface, several computer error alarms appeared. The first was a code 1202 alarm and even with their extensive training Armstrong or Aldrin were not aware of what this code meant. However, they promptly received word from CAPCOM in Houston that the alarms were not a concern. The 1202 and 1201 alarms were caused by a processing overflow in the lunar module computer. As described by Buzz Aldrin in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, the overflow condition was caused by his own counter-checklist choice of leaving the docking radar on during the landing process. Aldrin stated that he did so with the objective of facilitating re-docking with the CM should an abort become necessary, not realizing that it would cause the overflow condition.
Armstrong took over manual control of the LM, found an area which to him seemed safe for a landing and touched down on the moon at 20:17:39 UTC on July 20, 1969. Some accounts of the Apollo 11 landing describe the LM's fuel situation as having been dire, with only a few seconds remaining when they touched down. Armstrong had landed the LLTV with less than 15 seconds left on several occasions and he was also confident the LM could survive a straight-down fall from 50 feet (15 m) if needed. Analysis after the mission showed that because of the moon's lower gravity, fuel had sloshed about in the tank more than anticipated, which led to a misleadingly low indication of the remaining propellant; at touchdown there were about 50 seconds of propellant burn time left.
The first words Armstrong intentionally spoke to Mission Control and the world from the lunar surface were, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed", which briefly confused the flight controllers in Houston because he had changed the call-sign from Eagle to Tranquility Base, a name he had chosen himself. (The actual first words spoken on the moon were by the crew, either Aldrin's "Okay. Engine Stop" or Armstrong's "Shutdown.") Aldrin and Armstrong celebrated with only a handshake and pat on the back before quickly returning to the checklist of tasks which were needed in order to ready the lunar module for liftoff from the Moon should an emergency unfold during the first moments on the lunar surface.
That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.
It has long been assumed that Armstrong had mistakenly omitted the word "a" from his famous remark ("one small step for a man"), rendering the phrase a contradiction, as man in such use is synonymous with mankind. Armstrong is quoted as saying that he "would hope that history would grant me leeway for dropping the syllable and understand that it was certainly intended, even if it was not said – although it might actually have been."
It has since been claimed that acoustic analysis of the recording reveals the presence of the missing "a". A digital audio analysis conducted by Peter Shann Ford, an Australia-based computer programmer, claims that Armstrong did, in fact, say "a man", but the "a" was inaudible due to the limitations of communications technology of the time. Ford and James R. Hansen, Armstrong's authorized biographer, presented these findings to Armstrong and NASA representatives, who conducted their own analysis. The article by Ford, however, is published on Ford's own web site rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and linguists David Beaver and Mark Liberman at Language Log were skeptical of Ford's claims. Armstrong has expressed his preference that written quotations include the "a" in parentheses.
Armstrong's first words were declared after he said "I'm going to step off the LM now." He then turned and set his boot on the surface. When Armstrong made his proclamation, Voice of America was rebroadcast live via the BBC and many other stations the world over. The global audience at that moment was estimated at 450 million listeners, out of a then estimated world population of 3.631 billion people. The simple "one small step..." statement came from a train of thought that Armstrong had after launch and during the hours after landing.
About 15 minutes after the first step, Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface and became the second human to set foot on the Moon. The duo began their tasks of investigating how easily a person could operate on the lunar surface. Early on they also unveiled a plaque commemorating their flight, and also planted the flag of the United States. The flag used on this mission had a metal rod to hold it horizontal from its pole. Since the rod did not fully extend, and the flag was tightly folded and packed during the journey, the flag ended up with a slightly wavy appearance, as if there were a breeze. On Earth there had been some discussion as to whether it was appropriate to plant the flag at all, something about which Armstrong did not care. He did think that any flag should have been left to drape as it would on Earth, but decided it wasn't worth making a big deal about. Slayton had warned Armstrong that they would receive a special communication, but did not tell him that President Richard Nixon would contact them just after the flag planting.
Aldrin later gave the flag planting and subsequent phone call from President Nixon as reasons why there were no intentional photographs of Armstrong. In the entire Apollo 11 photographic record, there are only five images of Armstrong partly shown or reflected. Aldrin said plans were to take a photo of Armstrong after the famous image of Aldrin was taken, but they were interrupted by the Nixon communication. There were just over five minutes between these two events. The mission was timelined to the minute, with the majority of photographic tasks to be performed by Armstrong with their single Hasselblad camera.
After helping to set up the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package, Armstrong went for a walk to what is now known as East Crater, 65 yards (60 m) east of the LM, the greatest distance traveled from the LM on the mission. Armstrong's final task was to leave a small package of memorial items to deceased Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, and Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The time spent on EVA during Apollo 11 was about two and a half hours, the shortest of any of the six Apollo lunar landing missions. Each of the subsequent five landings were allotted gradually longer periods for EVA activities; the crew of Apollo 17, by comparison, spent over 21 hours exploring the lunar surface.
After being released from an 18-day quarantine to ensure that they had not picked up any infections or diseases from the Moon, the crew were feted across the United States and around the world as part of a 45-day "Giant Leap" tour. Armstrong then took part in Bob Hope's 1969 USO show, primarily to Vietnam, where some soldiers asked questions about how a man could be sent to the Moon while they were still stuck fighting the war. Tabloid newspapers printed stories that romantically linked Armstrong to Connie Stevens who was also on the tour, but the reports were unsubstantiated.
In May 1970, Armstrong traveled to the Soviet Union to present a talk at the 13th annual conference of the International Committee on Space Research. Arriving in Leningrad from Poland, he traveled to Moscow where he met Premier Alexey Kosygin. He was the first westerner to see the supersonic Tupolev Tu-144 and was given a tour of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center, which Armstrong described as "a bit Victorian in nature." At the end of the day, he was surprised to view delayed video of the launch of Soyuz 9. It had not occurred to Armstrong that the mission was taking place, even though Valentina Tereshkova had been his host and her husband, Andriyan Nikolayev, was on board.
Armstrong announced shortly after the Apollo 11 flight that he did not plan to fly in space again. He was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for aeronautics for the Office of Advanced Research and Technology (DARPA). He served in this position for only 13 months, and resigned from it and NASA as a whole in August 1971. He accepted a teaching position in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
He decided on Cincinnati over other universities, including his alma mater, Purdue University, because it had a small Aerospace department – he hoped that the faculty members would not be annoyed that he came straight into a professorship without a doctorate. His highest qualification was a Master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He began the work while stationed at Edwards years before, and he finally completed it after Apollo 11 by presenting a report on various aspects of Apollo, instead of a thesis on simulation of hypersonic flight. The official job title he received at Cincinnati was University Professor of Aerospace Engineering. After teaching for eight years, he resigned in 1979 due to other commitments and changes in the university structure from independent municipal school to state-school.
Along with spokesman duties, he also served on the board of directors of several companies, including Marathon Oil, Learjet, Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company, Taft Broadcasting, United Airlines, Eaton Corporation, AIL Systems, and Thiokol. He joined Thiokol's board after he served on the Rogers Commission; Challenger was destroyed due to a problem with the Thiokol-manufactured Solid Rocket Boosters. He retired as chairman of the board of EDO Corporation in 2002.
In 1972, Armstrong was welcomed into the town of Langholm, Scotland, the traditional seat of Clan Armstrong. The astronaut was made the first freeman of the burgh, and happily declared the town his home. The Justice of the Peace read from an unrepealed 400-year-old law that required him to hang any Armstrong found in the town.
In the fall of 1979, Armstrong was working at his farm near Lebanon, Ohio. As he jumped off of the back of his grain truck, his wedding ring caught in the wheel, tearing off his ring finger. However, he calmly collected the severed digit, packed it in ice, and managed to have it reattached by microsurgeons at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.
He met his second wife, Carol Held Knight, in 1992 at a golf tournament. Seated together at the breakfast, she said little to Armstrong, but a couple of weeks later, she received a call from him asking what she was doing. She replied she was cutting down a cherry tree, and 35 minutes later Armstrong was at her house to help out. They were married on June 12, 1994 in Ohio, and then had a second ceremony at San Ysidro Ranch in California.
Since 1994, Armstrong has refused all requests for autographs, after he found that his signed items were selling for large amounts of money and that many forgeries are in circulation. Often items reach prices of US$1,000 on auction sites like eBay. Signed photographs of the Apollo 11 crew can sell for $5,000. Any requests sent to him receive a form letter in reply saying that he has stopped signing. Although his no-autograph policy is well-known, author Andrew Smith observed people at the 2002 Reno Air Races still try to get signatures, with one person even claiming, "If you shove something close enough in front of his face, he'll sign. Along with autographs, he has stopped sending out congratulatory letters to new Eagle Scouts. The reason is that he thinks these letters should come from people who know the Scout personally.
Usage of Armstrong's name, image, and famous quote has caused him problems over the years. He sued Hallmark Cards in 1994 after they used his name and a recording of "one small step" quote in a Christmas ornament without permission. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money which Armstrong donated to Purdue. The case caused Armstrong and NASA to be more careful about the usage of astronaut names, photographs and recordings, and to whom he has granted permission. For non-profit and government public-service announcements, he will usually give permission.
In May 2005 Armstrong became involved in an unusual legal battle with his barber of 20 years, Marx Sizemore. After cutting Armstrong's hair, Sizemore sold some of it to a collector for $3,000 without Armstrong's knowledge or permission. Armstrong threatened legal action unless the barber returned the hair or donated the proceeds to a charity of Armstrong's choosing. Sizemore, unable to get the hair back, decided to donate the proceeds to the charity of Armstrong's choice.
Armstrong has received many honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and the Collier Trophy from the National Aeronautics Association. The lunar crater Armstrong, 50 km (31 miles) from the Apollo 11 landing site, and asteroid 6469 Armstrong are named in his honor. Armstrong was also inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Throughout the United States, there are more than a dozen elementary, middle and high schools named in his honor. Many places around the world have streets, buildings, schools, and other places named for Armstrong and/or Apollo. In 1969, folk songwriter and singer John Stewart recorded "Armstrong", a touching tribute to Armstrong and his first steps on the moon.
Purdue University announced in October 2004 that their new engineering building would be named Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering in his honor. The building cost $53.2 million and was dedicated on October 27, 2007. Armstrong was joined by fourteen other Purdue Astronauts at the ceremony. The Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum is located in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, although it has no official ties to Armstrong, and the airport in New Knoxville where he took his first flying lessons is named for him.
Armstrong's authorized biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, was published in 2005. For many years, Armstrong turned down biography offers from authors such as Stephen Ambrose and James A. Michener. He agreed to work with James R. Hansen after reading one of Hansen's other biographies.
The press often asks Armstrong for his views on the future of spaceflight. In 2005, Armstrong said that a manned mission to Mars will be easier than the lunar challenge of the 1960s: "I suspect that even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo (space program) in 1961." Armstrong also recalled his initial concerns about the Apollo 11 mission. He had believed there was only a 50 percent chance of landing on the moon. "I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful", he said.